By Justin Ford

Prior to COVID-19, safety was already a growing concern in the short-term vacation rental industry. With exponential growth over the last 20 years, and more professional managers and hosts entering the market, establishing and adhering to a safety protocol that matches government regulation has been both a challenge and a priority for many. 

What can you do to ensure your vacation rental is safe for guests? Luckily, amending your rental property to be up to today’s’ safety standards is possible and can be accomplished with little effort. There are many solutions that short-term hosts can research and use to advise the safety program of their rental properties. 

How can Property Managers & Hosts Prioritize Vacation Rental Safety at Their Properties?

The property manager and hosts dedication to proper safety precautions make all the difference. The first step for either is to accept safety as an incredibly important aspect of renting a property. When you offer a property for rent, the renters are trusting that you care for them and will ensure that the property is a safe place for them to enjoy. Many managers and hosts overlook this important first step when offering properties for rent as they focus first on what decor and amenities will help get the property rented. Short-term rental safety concerns often only come up during inspections or licensing, but only in less than 1% of localities in the USA that require inspections prior to being able to legally rent. Others may only consider basic life safety like smoke and carbon monoxide alarm installation when prompted by listing sites such as Airbnb or Vrbo. 

Breezeway has researched hundreds of lawsuits, insurance claims, and press reports on accidents at short-term rentals to create a comprehensive list of things that should be addressed in properties to prevent accidents. Did you know that over 80% of accidents in rentals come from trips and falls, while less than 3% of accidents come from fire or carbon monoxide poisoning? You can get your property certified as safe, and maybe even save on your annual insurance premium through the Breezeway Safety Certification Program. 

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (USPSC) regularly provides updated information on home safety and commodity items. Short term rental hosts should become familiar with resources like these, and look to adjust their properties to adhere to their standards. Just this month, 21,000 dressers were recalled because they presented a tip-over hazard (which is also why every host should visit AchorIt.Gov to learn how to prevent furniture tip-over accidents). 

Do you offer your guests a swimming pool or hot tub?

If you offer a swimming pool or hot tub at your rental, you should be following the federal Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools. In today’s short-term rental industry, swimming pools and spas really need to be set up much like a pool at your local hotel. Pools need safety signage, pool depth markers, and rescue tools. Hosts shouldn’t provide toys or flotation devices that aren’t approved by the US Coast Guard. 

Research building code standards required in your state as well as become familiar with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Publication 101. NFPA offers free access online for rental property owners and managers to browse. International Building Codes have been adopted by almost all US States and apply to short-term rentals. Both of those sources will be referenced in a lawsuit against you if you have an accident at your rental and you are accused of negligence by not adhering to them. 

What Areas of the Property Should Managers Focus on?

While we know more accidents at short-term rentals come from trips, slips, and falls than fire, the smoke detector is still the single most important item in a vacation rental. Still, making sure carpets with their corners turned up to prevent tripping hazards is just as important. At Breezeway, we’ve developed safety checklists that ensure renters will be safe in your rental property by examining all the data available from insurance companies, news reports, and lawsuits. A few items on our checklist include:

Stairways & Handrails

All stairways should have handrails. Continuous handrail(s) should be on at least one side of all stairs of 3 or more steps to ensure renters don’t fall. Note the black brackets supporting the handrail in the photo below – the side post rail is not a handrail. 

The addition of lighting will support good visibility for the guests going up and down the stairs at night. If they can see well, then renters won’t trip and fall in walkways and on driveways as they move about the property. Lights should be automated to come on for days when renters first arrive after dark. 

railing on short-term rental stairs

Grills & Outdoor Cooking

Barbecue grill placement is key to prevent a structure fire at the rental. Grills need to be kept at least 3 feet away (preferably 10 feet) from combustible things like buildings and deck roof overhangs. 

Fire extinguishers go hand-in-hand with fire hazards, both outside and inside the rental. Properly mounted fire extinguishers are a necessity in short-term rental properties. While you must have one for the kitchen or near fireplaces/stoves – additional ones one every floor of the rental is recommended. They must be mounted with the brackets they came with 3 to 5 feet off the floor as required by international building codes.

Bunk Beds

Bunk beds must meet federal safety requirements. These bunk beds in a short-term rental may look comfortable and inviting – but they are not safe (nor do they meet Proper Insurance requirements). Federal law requires bunk beds to comply with the bunk bed standard and with additional requirements, including those of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). To be specific, “The tops of the guardrails must be no less than 5 inches above the top of the mattress.” The top of the mattresses on these beds sit at the top of the rails with no 5” layer of protection.

vacation rental bunk beds with railing

Carpets & Area Rugs

Carpets and area rug trip hazards should be a top focus. This folded up carpet corner in a living room led to a guest injury in a short-term rental recently. If you have throw rugs down on wood or tile floors for aesthetic purposes, reconsider their need. Anything a renter can trip on is not a good idea to provide.

Emergency Contact Information

Emergency Safety Cards are an important life-saving tool. Information needs to be prominently displayed in the rental, preferably on the refrigerator, to let renters know where they are should they need to call 911, as well as where important safety features of the rental are located (fire extinguisher, etc.)

Wrap Up

Today’s guests want to stay in high-quality properties, and safety and regular maintenance is at the very core of this expectation. Our goal at Breezeway is to help property managers ensure their properties are as safe as possible.

Proper Insurance is committed to the same level of vacation rental safety and care for our hosts and their guests. With this in mind, all clients carrying the Proper Insurance policy are eligible for a 15% discount on the Breezeway online safety inspection and certification program. Once certified, you could receive up to a 5% off your base property premium and up to a 5% off your base liability premium (subject to policy minimums) on your Proper policy. To learn more about property safety and inspections visit the Breezeway website.

Do you have questions on post-COVID-19 cleaning and safety standards? Head over to iGMS for cleaning tips and health and safety guidelines: COVID-19 Safety & Precautionary Checklist for Hosts.

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